Judge strikes down Kentucky gay-marriage ban

A federal judge said arguments defending marriage laws on the basis that they reward couples who can naturally procreate “are not those of serious people.”

By Bob Allen

A gay Baptist minister who recently joined a lawsuit challenging Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage welcomed Tuesday’s ruling against the law as a step forward “in our continuing struggle to bring about equality.”

Senior U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II said laws in Kentucky preventing same-sex couples from wedding violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14h Amendment. He stayed the ruling, meaning it will not take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on his earlier holding and three other same-sex marriage cases to be argued Aug. 6.

bojangles blanchardMaurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, ordained to the gospel ministry by Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, and his partner, Dominique James, are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They have been together for 10 years and were married in a religious ceremony in 2006.

Last year they were arrested for staging a sit-in at a county clerk’s office after they were refused a marriage license. A jury convicted them in November. Their fine was one cent. Blanchard called it a symbolic victory, indicating the jurors understood what the couple was trying to say.

Blanchard volunteers at Highland Baptist Church as leader of True Colors, an outreach ministry to Louisville’s LGBT community started in 2011.

The church is currently in the news for a recent decision by deacons to begin allowing same-sex couples in the congregation to marry.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported July 1 that David Bannister Jr., 29, and Steven Carr, 25, are to be married next May at Highland Baptist Church, in Highland Baptist’s first gay marriage ceremony.

The judge said Blanchard and James have faced challenges as a result of the state’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They say their neighborhood association will not recognize them as a married couple because Kentucky does not allow them to marry, and their inability to obtain parental rights as a married couple has deterred them from adopting children.

The plaintiffs say the ban denies benefits that are available to married couples including lower income and estate taxes, leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act, family insurance coverage and participation in critical legal and medical decisions on behalf of one’s spouse.

The judge ripped apart the state’s argument justifying marriage laws “encouraging, promoting, and supporting the formation of relationships that have the natural ability to procreate.”

“These arguments are not those of serious people,” Heyburn opined. “Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have.”